Cyber terrorism – for profit

Cyber terrorism – for profit, not twisted ideology -has become a clear and present danger to Americans. If there is a cohesive strategy to defeat it, it is not working.

On Monday, hackers crippled computer networks at several hospitals in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The facilities are owned by MedStar Health Inc., which would not comment on whether the attackers demanded money.

Fortunately, backup systems – including paper patient records – were adequate to keep harm from coming to those being treated at the hospitals.

Just a few weeks ago, a similar attack shut down computers at a California hospital until officials there paid the $17,000 demanded by the hackers. Again, no patients suffered harm.

  • But unless some means of blocking such attacks is found, it will be only a matter of time until cyber assaults against health care providers escalate – and someone dies as a result.

Neither private nor government computer systems are secure against such invasions. Though there are some safeguards to avoid data loss, there appear to be few failsafe methods of blocking temporary shutdowns and theft of information.

Obviously, a joint initiative involving both the private sector and government, something like research programs used against certain diseases, would be the ideal method of devising a shield against such attacks.

It is worth asking, with Congress doing the questioning, what the status of such work is and what needs to be done to improve and accelerate it. Until and unless that is done, Americans may remain at the mercy on criminal hackers bent on extortion – and perhaps Islamic terrorists interested only in harming us.